When Diversity Becomes Conformity


“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”- John F. Kennedy

A lot of folks have been buzzing about the NCAA’s post-season ban on Native American mascots and “hostile or abusive” images. Some people were taken by surprise. I was not. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t shaking my head in frustration when the announcement was made. It just didn’t shock me.

It’s just one more symptom of a deeper problem in academia. Our colleges and universities have an incredible amount of liberal bias. I’ll link to two separate articles to back up this claim:

  • In this Washington Post article, a George Mason University study polled faculty members from 183 four-year schools around the country for their political leanings.
  • This article from the Leadership Institute takes data from Federal Election Commission records on the political contributions of university faculty members.

The two articles draw data from separate sources to arrive at the exact same conclusion: American universities are indeed liberal bastions. Neither article goes into depth about the reasons for the disparity.

Most academic institutions like to tout the fact that they are places where young minds are taught to think critically. How is that claim supportable given the demonstrated bias on our campuses? Students only get one side of ideological arguments. How does that foster critical thinking? I think we would be wise to contemplate Kennedy’s quote when faced with the ideological and political conformity on campuses.

Diversity is a buzzword echoed throughout the hallowed halls of academia. Campuses champion the diversity of culture, race, religion, and sexual orientation. That is if your culture, race, religion, or sexual orientation falls within the minority. The majority better walk on eggshells. As for ideological and political diversity, forget it. The “diversity” mantra is chanted as a smokescreen for liberal and “progressive” agendas.

College students violate academic “speech-codes” at their peril. At the University of Virginia, new students are ecouraged to avoid the use of terms like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” as they are too “gender specific.” Indoctrinees at UVa are encouraged to use the terms “lover” and “partner” instead. Examples of students being persecuted for ridiculous violations of speech-codes are too numerous to mention. (If you’re curious, there are plenty of examples here and here.)

[I’ve got to give kudos where deserved. The ACLU has teamed up on numerous occasions with FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) to defend students facing disciplinary action for violations of speech-codes.]

This stuff needs to see the light of day. We’ve got an educational system in place that suppresses individual thought and expression when it doesn’t conform to preconceived notions of diversity and acceptable political thought. Alumni need to be aware of what goes on at their alma maters before sending off that annual contribution check.

6 Responses to “When Diversity Becomes Conformity”

  1. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Interesting topic. I guess I’ve assumed that universities were, in fact, liberal bastions overall.

    I guess there’s lots of ways to define “liberal” and “conservative.”

    One of those would imply that liberals push the envelope and are open to change and new ideas while conservatives stay true to their namesake and “conserve” or preserve previously-held ideas. This definition would lend research-based institutions to lean leftward it would seem.

    Another thing that comes to mind (personally) is that “liberal” often means “unpopular” (think Lincoln, MLK, etc.). I always assumed that a big part of the appeal of becoming a tenured professor would be the ability to espouse unpopular ideas and not get fired for it. I’ll tell you the truth, for us preacher-types who see things a bit differently than most folks, there’s a secret lust to be a professor of religion instead of someone whose grocery bill depends on not rocking the boat.

    Then there’s Trent’s article long ago now that pointed out the liberal lean toward considering lots of viewpoints and changing their minds (read: waffling) versus the conservative admiration for taking a strong stand (read: Dubya). That, too, seems to me to speak to the topic at hand.

    Just thinking out loud, and I guess my knee-jerk reaction is that I’m not surprised that the academic world leans to the left and that I’d just about always expect it to do so.

    Interesting stuff to think about… Thanks, Joe.

  2. Duane McCrory Says:


    Have you considered chaplaincy? My grocery bill does not depend on not rocking the boat.

  3. Joe Longhorn Says:

    I agree that academia is a place for new ideas. My issue is with the oppression of some new ideas because they don’t necessarily contribute to the “approved” agenda.
    This article gives an ineresting account of an “unpopular” idea being shouted down.

  4. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Duane: Chaplaincy would be a hard road for me, seeing as my academic background is geared toward teaching social studies in high schools. I’m sure it would be interesting, though…

    And along those lines, I’m in a great place for me. Great elders. Good congregation that supports me. No personal vendettas against me in the past five years (that I know about).

    Joe: You make a valid point. Which is why (I hope all Religious Right fans are sitting down), I’ve always had respect for the ACLU’s approach to this sort of stuff. The approach is, without a doubt, consistent.

  5. Michael Lasley Says:

    I’m not sure what to think about this article. Those outside of the academy think it’s liberal. Many inside the academy think of it as a very traditional institution that has so many traditions that something needs to be done to attempt to change things, even if they seem outlandish to those outside. First, yes, there are some teachers who try to indoctrinate students with liberal ideas, and there’s no excuse for indoctrination (although, simply *teaching* ideas does not equal indoctrination — as long as students aren’t graded for thinking differently than the professors, teaching radical ideas can be a good thing — can help challenge students to think in different and uncomfortable ways). But, I think this needs to be put into historical perspective. Until the late ’60s, women, any person of color, and anyone in the economic middle class or lower weren’t even allowed to *think* about going to college. There was absolutely no diversity of ideas or people or religion. In that respect, even if the university is liberal, I don’t see a huge reason for being upset, as a traditional agenda was pushed for the first 150 – 200 years of the American University. But, I still think it’s odd to hear people get upset about “diversity” issues at universities. Check out the racial make-up of the faculties and students at the majority of universities. (I’ll go out on a limb and say UV will work well for this experiment.) Almost entirely white — both faculty and students. That’s just one aspect of diversity, but it’s the most easily visible. And many liberal causes were not allowed talked about at universities for years (and honestly, they still aren’t a lot of times — I think I’ve mentioned before the hate crimes against the gay and lesbian community at Syracuse that pretty much nothing was done about).

    I’ve never seen Christians silenced at any of the universities I’ve been to, but I’m sure it goes on. And I have no idea why a university would get involved in the boyfriend / girlfriend label. That seems like a decision for a couple to make rather than an institution.

    I think my disagreement with you on this issue might actually tie into my disagreement with you on the media. There are articles to be found about how liberal ideas are suppressed in the academy simply because they don’t fit into the traditional structures of the institution. But they don’t get much play in the media because they aren’t all that controversial — people already think the academy is liberal, so why listen to a liberal complain about not getting to pursue some or other idea.

    (And from personal experience, I can think of several examples of a worthy scholar either being denied promotion or not getting hired or not getting into a graduate program because they were openly gay or because they were a person of color. Four come to mind instantly, and in three of the instances it came down to a Dean who was very, very conservative and couldn’t stand the thought of a lesbian in her school.)

  6. Michael Lasley Says:

    And one more thing, I’ve never seen individual thought suppressed at a university. To pull from Al’s notion of “liberal” meaning thinking critically about a variety of viewpoints, I would think this is a good thing. But that’s me. And as a liberal teaching in the academy, my favorite students are often my conservative students because they challene the way I think. There are a lot of lazy liberals who are set in their ways and who think they are right about everything, but I think it’s unfair to group all liberals or entire institutions into that category based on those few.

    And if we were to get right down to it, students don’t pay just all that much attention to what goes on in classes anyway. If I were an alumnist, I would be way more concerned with the amount of time students spent partying than what goes on in the classroom.

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